Alabama Weighs in on the Ethics of Groupons

Disagreeing with other ethics committees, the Alabama State Disciplinary Commission recently issued an opinion finding that “[t]he use of daily deal websites, such as Groupon, violates or potentially violates a number of rules of professional conduct.”

The Alabama opinion addressed whether the percentage Groupon takes is an advertising fee, and found that Groupon and similar sites “do not charge a flatt rate fee or even a fee based on the website’s traffic.” Nor is the fee “tied in any manner to the ‘reasonable cost’ of the advertisement.” Based on this distinction from other forms of group advertising, the Disciplinary Commission found that using Groupon constitutes sharing a fee with a non-lawyer. The Disciplinary Commission also found that there were potential ethical pitfalls for attorneys, including placing funds in a trust account, refunding unused money, performing ethics checks, and taking cases which the lawyer is competent to handle.

(h/t Professional Responsibility Blog)


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